Hurricane Irma one year later – where South Florida stands...
Bottom Line: These are stories you shouldn't miss and my takes on them...
- A year after Hurricane Irma, South Florida is better prepared for the Big One — finally - Miami Herald
Excerpt: A year ago this Monday, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys. Although it only brushed many of us — it punished Middle Keys residents where homes were inundated and insurance-related struggles continue. In terms of wind speed, it was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Charley in 2004.
But Irma did something other hurricanes hadn’t. It gave rise to a robust concept that we need to be more resilient as a community and as individuals in the face of catastrophic storms. As a community, we need to be better prepared so that we can bounce back quicker, with less damage, when a storm hits. Individually, we need to rely on ourselves and less on government help.
This tired cycle has gotten old: After a hurricane passes, we are left without electricity, gas, internet connections and fully functioning supermarkets.
Hot Take: The first hurricane I remember experiencing was hurricane Bob in 1985. As a child back then it seemed exiting, almost fun until the realities of what was happening set in. About the time power goes out, it’s not exciting or fun for anyone of any age and as we know all too well, it can be deadly. Fast forward several years and professionally I’ve provided long form coverage of hurricanes since hurricane Floyd in 1999. Every storm is somewhat unique but the outcomes are almost always the same. Evacuations, mass power outages and a lesson or two to tuck away for the next one.
Maybe it’s part of simply getting older and wiser that I’m more concerned with hurricanes and their potential impact today as compared to even say the 04’, 05’ hurricane cycle but that’s the case. After nearly twenty years of covering hurricanes, let alone those I experienced as a child, little surprises me but in the wake of Irma there was one number that came as huge surprise. Over 40% of Floridians impacted by Irma had never experienced a hurricane. It almost seemed impossible but when you consider it’d been twelve years from the end of the 04’, 05’ cycle, Florida’s transient population, demographics, population growth, etc., it begins to become more plausible.
The Herald’s story got me to thinking about the point of what hasn’t changed for the most part over the years. The same cycle of evacs, power outages, etc. Save improved communication from government agencies and FPL and other power companies, there really hasn’t been any meaningful improvement since the building codes changed after Andrew in 1992. That speaks to the more important point in the Herald story. It’s more important that we’re controlling what we can control and that starts with being informed.
The biggest mistakes I see time and again are paying attention and making decisions based on the wrong considerations. Yes, the top wind speeds of hurricanes are going to gain the lion’s share of attention and are sensational but they’re rarely the most important consideration. The impact from hurricanes on average is most severe from:
- Top sustained winds
Ironically, the top sustained winds, which gain the overwhelming amount of attention, impact less than the other two concerns. Much of that is due to those top winds generally being in a very small area right around the eye while the storm surge, rain, and threat of tornadoes is far more pervasive. Irma was a pretty good example of this for south east Florida. Flooding and tornadoes were much bigger issues than the top winds from the storm. For example, near my home the top winds peaked at 87 miles per hour but tornadic damage to a power poll nearby left us without power for over 5 days, the second longest stretch I’ve been without power. Ironically enough my family in Naples, in the direct cross-hairs of Irma, had power back three days prior despite top winds of 135 mph in the area.
And that’s the biggest takeaway, be informed that if you’re in proximity anything can and often does happen and be prepared to know what to do when it does. Last year many from our coast evacuated into the direct path of the storm. Many didn’t think it’d be a big deal once Irma passed us by without a direct hit. Some thought it’d be fun or exciting. It’s none of those things and storms, like government, can be unpredictable so counting on yourself as much as possible is a smart plan.